The fisherman’s son: A novel by Vilis Lācis

From the 1957 film

The fisherman’s son is about a small fishing community in Latvia. While we don’t know when the book is set, it was published in 1933, and we can assume the setting is meant to be contemporary. The story follows one man from a young age when he is staying and working at home supporting his family, until he establishes himself as an independent fisherman and everything that happens afterwards. This book is a brilliant work at describing how it was to work within a primary industry (primary industry is industry working with the raw material such as lumbermen, fishermen, farmers etc.) in the 30s. It also discusses socialistic organisations like a union, what is required and why they might be required in a community working with mainly primary industry.

But ignoring the political discussion about the primary industry, the book is also a character study. Not just of Oscar, the main character. The fisherman so fisherman he out-fisherman all the other fishermen. I don’t just mean he’s a good fisherman, but he embodies everything that was linked to being a fisherman; hardworking, quiet, stoic, don’t want to get involved (but always does), a natural leader of

From the 1939 film

bunch of good-for-nothings, a bond with the ocean that no woman can break. While the book is a much rougher and honest take on working with the primary industry, the book does move in to the romanticizing that we know so well from a lot of literature about the farmer. While the book does say some of the hardships with being a fisherman, you are never supposed to think negatively of Oscar and through him all “good” fisherman.

Now the term “good” is important, because the book is also a character study of the small fishing community. Now I wasn’t raised in a small fishing community, but I have seen/read a lot of Miss Marple. And that comment alone will tell Christe fan’s all you need to know. While Oscar is always painted in a good light, him being the ultimate fisherman, the community isn’t always. This both drives the plot, but also gives the book a sense of realism. While some characters are painted as fairly one dimensional bad guys, mostly those who dare try an out-fisherman our main fisherman, but some aren’t one dimensional bad or good. Their just people. They are trying to survive in and a time that doesn’t lend itself to much choices in that regard. You either “got out” or you became a fisherman. While I did like Oscar, it’s these people that I want to recommend. For someone who have always lived far removed from the primary industry, reading about people who are just trying to live their life shows me why this type of life can be so hated, and so loved, by the people who are a product of it.






  1. Now that is an obscure little gem indeed – well done for unearthing it! By the way, I see that you also follow Walburga Appleseed’s blog – who happens to be a good friend of mine from Geneva.


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